Ahhhh, MidPoint! I look forward to it every year. September, for this lady, holds promise, romance, intrigue and MPMF. I started my MPMF.13 off right: grabbed a baller parking spot right after work in front of Coffee Emporium, grabbed a baller iced Americano and grabbed my (you thought I was going to say baller? How presumptuous) press pass. I think I did say out loud to myself: Let's GOOOO.
The first band I wanted to see was my pal Molly Sullivan at 8:15 p.m. at Japp's Annex. I had some time to kill, so I hung out on the Midway. Sidewalk Chalk was still grooving; they've got a rocking brass section, shimmery drums and soulful singers. I previously saw them on Fountain Square last year as part of the Indie Summer Series, and really enjoyed everything they had to offer. Great fun way to kick off MPMF.
I wandered around the Midway for a bit, checking out the numerous box trucks that comprise the Box Truck Carnival presented by ArtWorks. The Midway itself is pretty awesome, easily accessible and kind of reminds me of a corral for progressively more intoxicated adults. I don't mean that in a derogatory way; I, too, enjoy consuming beer freely in the open on 12th Street. The Box Trucks this year held a lot of potential — I wrote about the Midway for the MPMF Guide in CityBeat a few weeks back, so I was well-briefed on what to expect. Well, kind of.
The first truck I checked out was the Glam Rock Box Truck. Anyone who knows me is aware of the siren call the word "karaoke" holds, so of course I went in.The premise was great (for karaoke nerds like me), but box trucks just don't do karaoke justice, honestly. There are a number of songs to pick from, but not as many karaoke staples as one might expect. And for being called the Glam Rock truck, I didn't really see any Glam Rock hits on the list. The ladies running the truck seemed to be having a good time, though, so I did my best version of "Semi-Charmed Life" and went off to continue leading mine.
I wandered around the Midway some more, stopping in the Short Order Poetry Box Truck, which was 19 kinds of adorable. You step inside the truck, get paired with a stranger who asks you random questions (hi Adam!) and then they'll create a poem, on a typewriter no less, just for you, ready in just about 10 minutes. Mine had a lot of death and blood and dream imagery, just how I like 'em.
I listened to a few minutes of stand-up in the comedy Box Truck before heading to Lucy Blue's. I notoriously put off eating until I'm ravenous, so I decided to carb-up on pizza in preparation for the long night ahead. I met up with friends at Japp's and we ordered drinks and chatted before wandering to the Annex to hear Molly Sullivan.
Every time I see Molly perform, I'm more and more impressed. She's really fleshed her sound out (the addition of friends on the drums and bass is the perfect complement to her singer/guitarist combo), and lots of people are noticing — she recently won the Last Soloist Standing contest at FBs, grand prize being a large cash sum. Molly's a charming vocalist; her voice is flexible and searching, and she's always been good at melancholy intonation. I heard a fresh version of "So It Goes" from the No No Knots days, and some of her newer material had an almost Jewel-when-she-still-had-a-snaggle-tooth quality to it. I really, really dug it. So did a number of other people — quite a dedicated following was there. I'd say Molly Sullivan's first solo show at MPMF was a great success.
I had been planning all week to see Kurt Vile at Grammer's, but there was about half an hour before he was supposed to go on and I ran into my pal Caitlin, who told me the mythical history of Shuggie Otis. I was intrigued, so I walked with her to Washington Park. I still don't know how I feel about the fact that they've moved the stage to the permanent pavilion instead of in front of Music Hall; there's such a grandiosity to playing in front of that gorgeous building that just isn't matched by the pavilion — and I know there are lots of sad Instagram accounts crying right now — but I understand the convenience. We'll see how I feel about it tonight.
Anyway. Shuggie Otis. Skyrocketed to fame by age 21 and receded into the abyss of obscurity? And then he joins David Byrne's label and comes back? Tell me more. Shuggie had a groovy Soul/Funk sound brought to life by a huge backing band, complete with a stellar saxophonist. Glad I caught a few minutes, but I was on a Kurt Vile MISSION, so I started the trek to Liberty Street and Grammer's.
Well, by way of my car. I grabbed a jacket and was headed north, but as I walked by Below Zero Lounge, I heard a voice too great not to stop. If Ryan Adams and Adam Levine and the bearded lead singer from Maps & Atlases had an Asian baby, it would be St. Lenox. He was just plain awesome. I wanted to hang out with him, I wanted him to sing an album of lullabies, I wanted to stay for his whole set, but I'll be damned if I wasn't going to see Kurt Vile.
I didn't see Kurt Vile. Whoever guessed that two paragraphs ago knows that my ominous overtone was poorly done. I got stopped again walking by MOTR, this time by Fort Shame from Columbus, Ohio. I feel like so many times when a woman is a lead singer of a rock outfit, the instinct is to compare her to another female vocalist, but it has to be one who's personality is somehow perceived as similar, or stylistically akin (and I do mean clothes, not just shredding), so I'm not going to compare Fort Shame's Sue Harshe to anyone, because I don't think that's fair and, honestly, it's a little reductive. I'm just going to say that she does credit to anyone singing Rock. And the band had a star saxophonist, which was super fun.
I did hear via Twitter that Kurt Vile sang the word "yeah" for like fifteen minutes at the beginning of his set, so I said it a bunch to myself as I walked back to the Midway to hear Ha Ha Tonka and didn't feel too bad about it.
The first time I saw Ha Ha Tonka was two (or three? who knows) Midpoints ago at The Drinkery. These guys have all gotten hair cuts since then, but they sound even better. They sound like what folky Rock cut with a raucous night of varying emotions that ends with hanging out with friends and beer staring at the river would sound like. You know the kind of night I'm talking about. They're just the tops. Tight and talented musicality and great stage presence is only topped by their impeccable four-part harmony. Just magnetic. Second or third time's the charm, gentlemen.
I finished my night seeing Bleached at the Know Theatre, which last year held all the buzz bands I wished I'd been able to get inside and see (something about being "at capacity"), and I wasn't disappointed. Punk Rock girls with a guy drummer. Ramones cover. Misfits cover. I thoroughly enjoyed my attempt at head-banging AND the fact that these girls didn't try too hard. I feel like a lot of Punk-esque bands nowadays are all like "I AM PUNK! LOOK, SEE, I AM!" but Bleached was more like, "Fuck Punk. We're just Bleached." Own it, dudes.
And then I walked back to my car and went home and passed right the heck out. I'll see ya at MPMF for round two tonight.
The inaugural Bunbury Music Festival — three days of top-shelf Alternative music at Cincinnati's riverfront Sawyer Point Park — is just four days away. All this week, CityBeat's music blog will be featuring samples from some of our "sleeper picks" for the fest, artists who some may not be as familiar with as they are Weezer or Death Cab for Cutie or Jane's Addiction.
Our next "sleeper" is Imagine Dragons, performing Saturday at 5:15 p.m. on the Bud Light Stage.
Founded in Las Vegas four years ago by primary songwriter Dan Reynolds, Imagine Dragons went through a variety of permutations before settling on the current line-up (guitarist Wayne Sermon, bassist Ben McKee, drummer Daniel Platzman). Since 2009, Imagine Dragons has turned out a quartet of impressive EPs, including the just-released Continued Silence, featuring the YouTube sensation “It’s Time,” all of which is a preview for the fall release of the band’s debut full-length, Night Visions. A quick spin through Continued Silence — the band’s first work for Interscope since signing last year and, like the new album, produced by renowned British Hop Hop boardsman Alex Da Kid — is like panning in a creek bedded with gold nuggets; glints of Coldplay, Everclear, Train and any number of other chart-topping Pop icons, but with a discernibly beat-driven Indie edge. As epic as Homerian poetry set to a U2 soundtrack and as intimate as a candlelight dinner in the Nevada desert.
Friday, Apr 27 - MerleFest Festival Grounds
Every morning I wake and thank baby Jesus I am a biped, agile and have been blessed with a no mess ability to pee standing up. And in a steady torrent. Just about anywhere without attracting attention (well, there was that county deputy in Abington, Va., a while back who got a bit riled). Middle age is good.
Here's a tip for you campers. Your welcome to stay up as late as you want, but if it's 3 a.m. and your talking like your in your living room, don't complain at 6 a.m. if I'm banging pots like I'm in my kitchen.
Oh, and you've pitched your tent in poison ivy.
Thursday after an early evening catnap (middle age) to the sounds of Daily and Vincent (meh — great Stanley Brothers style harmonies, lay off the Cracker Barrel shtick), I made my way over to to the Dance Tent to catch some Blind Boy Chocolate and the Milk Sheiks. This Asheville, NC, street ensemble features five guys doing hokum string/jug band/blues music from the late 1920's and early ’30s. Guys in newsie caps, mutton chops, bowler hats with tattooed ears (ouch, that had to hurt), nose rings — yep, total 20-sumpthin freaks.
Calling out tunes by long (and soon to be) forgotten Blues and string players from the early part of the last century, Blind Chocolate plays hard-driving, bawdy, syncopated, all-acoustic string music. Lyrically rich in double entendres, liquor and murder. This ain't the square dance stuff my Uncle Blake played and my dad danced to in parlors across the Cumberland Plateau during the Great Depression; this is the music found in jukes and bars and back room drinkeries and the kids love it. Every 10 years or so, string music comes back into fashion, and that, my friends, is a good thing. John Hartford is clapping from his grave. It's comforting to witness people giving over to the coherent dissonance of barely tunable instruments, played together and with vehemence. Banjolin, steel guitar, washtub bass, washboard and tenor banjo, three guys trading vocals, four guys shouting in unison and giving call-backs. Dwight Hawkins (Blind Boy Chocolate?) plays saw, bones and the short scale tenor banjo in a style I've never seen before. And does it really well. The banjolin player, Nicholas Marshall (one of the Milk Sheiks?), occasionally picks up a thoroughly modern looking mandolin, temporarily breaking the temporal enchantment. After a lull at the top of their long set as people wondered in and grew accustom to being ass-to-elbow, the crowd was jumping and yelling, kids from 8 to 80 whirled and shimmied.
After a few cups of coffee this morning (Friday), I headed over to the Americana stage to check out another Asheville based band, The Honeycutters. North Carolina has a rich history of Alternativecountryrootsrockamericana bands. From The Backsliders to the Avett Brothers, this state churns ’em out and the natives support band after great band. The Honeycutters fit the Avett Brothers mold of instantly likable songs and gifted melodies. It's got to be hard, after playing clubs and bars, to get up early enough to hit the stage by 9:30 a.m. The Honeycutters brought their 'A' game and delivered an instantly familiar and pleasant set. Just what my psyche needed after listening all night to my campground neighbors. The mandolin player plays in well-worn territory while acoustic guitar player Peter James fills the space with sweet crosspicking and occasionally lays into his guitar in a fashion somewhat reminiscent of early Paul K. Lead singer Amanda Anne Platt's beautiful alto fills the air — add in some tasteful three part harmonies and you have a AAA Radio winner.
From the Americana tent, my soul freshly refilled, I headed back over to the Cabin Stage for a set by Blues historian, storyteller and performer Frutland Jackson (Fruit Land). Hailing from Chicago, Frutland covers seamlessly and flawlessly all styles of blues from delta to north Mississippi to Chicago to Piedmont, all the while telling in a remarkably engaging and non-professorial way what distinguishes one style from another. I've seen plenty of Blues player who like to lecture during performances, and mostly I feel like shouting, "Shut the fuck up and play!" but Frutland had me wanting to bum rush the stage in awe and anticipation that he may answer some questions I have about Depression-era singers and groups. First set I've seen in a lonnnnng while that ended to soon. Most of his songs were originals done in a specific style with a voice that ranged from guttural to heartfelt tremble (think Ledbetter doing "Goodnight Irene"). Outstanding!
Some of the many things to do at MerleFest besides running from one stage to another trying to catch acts is sitting around and playing music with other attendees. Along with an open mic area, there are three tents set up where you sit down and play — Old Timey, Bluegrass and Anything Goes. The Anything Goes tent is like a hippy camp-out with one bazillion guitars around a raging fire in the middle of the night, playing Casey Jones minus the alcohol and LSD. The stuff nightmares are made of, but if you've never done this kind of thing, there's no reason to be a jaded asshole like me — grab your guitar and jump in. Everyone is clean and welcoming.
I sat around the Old Timey Tent as it had the least guitar-to-other-instrument ratios. (By the way, aspiring musicians — learn guitar to impress the girls or boys; learn something else for a working job.) A couple of old timers were letting fly on some fiddle tunes. Quite nice. The guitar player was strumming a pre-1935 Martin D18. I know about these things, and they tickle me pink.
Time for lunch!
One of the Midwest’s best new music fests, Cincinnati’s own Bunbury Music Festival, presents its second annual event this weekend. With another stellar lineup for the three-day affair — including headliners like Fun., MGMT and Cincinnati-bred Indie Rock stars The National (whose latest album debuted at No. 3 on Billboard’s album chart), plus a great number of Greater Cincinnati’s top acts — a “sophomore slump” seems impossible.
Be sure to arrive early and check out some of the lesser-known acts; there are a lot of up-and-coming gems to discover. Below is the full schedule (click here to auto-download a PDF version of the schedule from the fest.)
Shows run Friday-Sunday and start at 2 p.m. Gates open at 1
p.m. each day. Tickets are $65 or $130 for three-day passes. (Kids 10
and under are free with a paying adult.) Keep your wristband on; Bunbury
allows re-entry, if you need to run to the car and pound a 40, er, grab
From BunburyFestival.com, here is what is and isn't permitted to bring to Bunbury:
What to Bring (Allowed Items)
- Sun Gear (e.g., sunglasses, sunscreen, etc.)
- Seating (e.g., folding chair, blanket, etc.)
- Bug Repellent (no Deet)
- Rain Gear (ponchos are best, but small, hand-held umbrellas are OK)
- Baby strollers
- Empty water bottled (no glass) or Cambelbak
- Wall mounted rapid charger (charging stations provide iPhone and mini-USB chords, but if you have your own chord, you won't have to wait)
What NOT to Bring (Prohibited Items)
- Weapons, fireworks or explosives of any kind
- Illegal substances (including narcotics) or drug paraphernalia
- Framed or large backpacks
- Glass containers of any kind or coolers
- Food, beverages or Cambelbaks that are full
- Carts, bicycles, skateboards, scooters, or personal motorized vehicles (including Segways). There is bike/scooter parking outside the event site
- Tents, large umbrellas or chairs that are NOT sand chairs (seat more than 9" off the ground)
- Pets (except service dogs)
- Any audio recording, professional camera or video equipment
- Moshing, crowd surfing, and/or stage diving
- Vending without a Bunbury license or permit
- Bills over $20. We won't accept them at the beverage booths.
There's more fun AFTER Bunbury at the Bunbury official after-parties, with loads of drink specials and no cover charge. Tonight, DJ Ice Cold Tony will spin at the official after-party at downtown's Igby's. Tomorrow, Bunbury performers Chairlift will DJ the after-party at aliveOne in Mt. Adams. And Sunday's after-party at downtown's The Righteous Room will have DJing by great Cincy Electro duo You, You're Awesome. (Friday and Saturday's parties start at approximately 11 p.m.; Sunday's starts at around 10 p.m.)
FRIDAY, JULY 12
MAIN STAGE: The Features (2:45 p.m.); Delta Rae (4:15 p.m.); Tegan and Sara (5:45 p.m.); Walk the Moon (7:45 p.m.); fun. (10 p.m.)
ROCKSTAR STAGE: Beat Club (2 p.m.); The Dunwells (3:30 p.m.); Red Wanting Blue (5 p.m.); Youngblood Hawke (6:45 p.m.); Devotchka (9 p.m.)
CINCINNATUS STAGE: Billy Wallace (2:45 p.m.); Pete Dressman (4:15 p.m.); Josh Eagle (5:45 p.m.); Jay Nash (7:45 p.m.)
BUD LIGHT STAGE: Public (2 p.m.); American Authors (3:30 p.m.); Everest (5 p.m.); Sky Ferreira (6:30 p.m.); Tokyo Police Club (8:30 p.m.)
LAWN STAGE: Alone At 3am (2:45 p.m.); Old Baby (4:15 p.m.); We Are Snapdragon (5:45 p.m.); Seabird (7:15 p.m.)
AMPHITHEATER STAGE: The Mitchells (2 p.m.); Ohio Knife (3:30 p.m.); State Song (5 p.m.); Buffalo Killers (6:30 p.m.); Those Darlins (8 p.m.)
SATURDAY, JULY 13
MAIN STAGE: Empires (2:45 p.m.); Robert Delong (4:15 p.m.); Twenty One Pilots (5:45 p.m.); Cake (7:45 p.m.); MGMT (10 p.m.)
ROCKSTAR STAGE: X Ambassadors (2:00 p.m.); Civil Twilight (3:30 p.m.); Chairlift (5 p.m.); We Are Scientists (6:45 p.m.); Divine Fits (9 p.m.)
CINCINNATUS STAGE: Margaret Darling (2:45 p.m.); Taylor Alexander (4:15 p.m.); Tim Carr (5:45 p.m.); Christopher Paul Stelling (7:45 p.m.)
BUD LIGHT STAGE: Culture Queer (2 p.m.); Vacationer (3:30 p.m.); The Mowgli's (5 p.m.); Oberhofer (6:30 p.m.); Atlas Genius (8:30 p.m.)
LAWN STAGE: The Ready Stance (2:45 p.m.); The Bears Of Blue River (4:15 p.m.); Black Owls (5:45 p.m.); You, You're Awesome (7:15 p.m.)
AMPHITHEATER STAGE: New Vega (2 p.m.); Messerly And Ewing (3:30 p.m.); Ben Walz Band (5 p.m.); The Pinstripes (6:30 p.m.); Bear Hands (8 p.m.)
SUNDAY, JULY 14
MAIN STAGE: Joe Purdy (2 p.m.); Gregory Alan Isakov (3:30 p.m.); Camera Obscura (5 p.m.); Belle & Sebastian (7 p.m.); The National (9 p.m.) (Read CityBeat's interview with The National here.)
ROCKSTAR STAGE: The Knocks (2:45 p.m.); A Silent Film (4:15 p.m.); Night Terrors of 1927 (6 p.m.); Yo La Tengo (8 p.m.)
CINCINNATUS STAGE: Ben Knight (2 p.m.); Jake Kolesar (3:30 p.m.); Mark Utley (5 p.m.); Channing & Quinn (7 p.m.)
BUD LIGHT STAGE: Gringo Star (2:45 p.m.); High Highs (4:15 p.m.); Savoir Adore (5:45 p.m.); Black Joe Lewis (7:45 p.m.)
LAWN STAGE: Mia Carruthers (2 p.m.); Bethesda (3:30 p.m.); The Harlequins (5 p.m.); DAAP Girls (6:30 p.m.)
AMPHITHEATER STAGE: The Upset Victory (2:45 p.m.); Green Light Morning (4:15 p.m.); The Hiders (5:45 p.m.); Daniel Martin Moore (7:15 p.m.)
Here is Bunbury's official Spotify playlist for the fest featuring many of the performers:
And, finally, here is the map of the Bunbury Festival grounds from bunburyfestival.com: